Next week, the County Board of Supervisors will meet to vote on the Wilshire Bus Only Lanes proposal to decide the county’s official position on the three potential routes. However, the main drama over the proposal ended earlier today when the Los Angeles City Council approved alternative A1 for the proposal, the 7.7 mile route along Wilshire Boulevard excluding Beverly Hills, Condo Canyon and Santa Monica but including Brentwood.
Which doesn’t mean that all of the drama is over. The Brentwood Community Council made a not so veiled threat to sue over the lack of studies of the impact of shortening sidewalk lengths to make room for a travel lane in Brentwood. When there’s more news of that lawsuit, we’ll let you know.
At one point during public comment, the Bike Coalition’s Allison Mannos asked for increased public comment because the majority of the people that had the chance to speak were in favor of a truncated route. Her plea fell on deaf ears, but it didn’t matter. There was no support on the Council for the 5.4 mile route from Downtown L.A. to the Beverly Hills border that was championed by Councilman Bill Rosendahl and Brentwood Community Council activists.
Towards the end of the debate, a frustrated Rosendahl compared himself to a “lone boat at sea” and commented that he would prefer a route that included the Condo Canyon area over one that didn’t but included Brentwood. If he had voted that way, the 8.7 mile route would have actually passed the full council creating a showdown with the Metro Board which had already approved the 7.7 mile route.
Instead of a debate over the value of Bus Only Lanes in Brentwood, the Council debated whether or not the politics of the Metro Board and County Board of Supervisors should trump council decisions. In the end, they tried to have their bus and ride it too, by going along with the 7.7 mile route but “urging” a change to the 8.7 route should the County or Board should change their minds. By going along with the Metro Board’s previous position, they assured that the project will be submitted to the Federal Transit Administration, who is funding the project, by their deadline. The Metro Board of Directors, who already voted on this project, the City Council and County Board of Supervisors, who are voting next week, all have to agree on a route before the application can be submitted.
Which is not to say that today’s vote was easy.
The City Council actually voted with a majority of present members for the 8.7 mile route, 7-5. However, Council rules require 8 votes to pass a measure, regardless of the members present. Councilmen Alarcon, Reyes, Parks and Cardenas were vocal in their support for the 8.7 mile route citing the needs of transit riders. Reyes told a personal story of his commute from the Eastside to UCLA, while Reyes compared any changes from the 7.7 mile route the Green Line not being extended to LAX.
For Cardenas, the matter was simple. Politics shouldn’t trump planning. “Anything short of 8.7 mile routes is too much politics.” – Cardenas
However, the arguments Councilmen Krekorian, LaBonge and especially Paul Koretz, who quoted a traffic study commissioned by Condo Canyon residents as if it were a Holy Book, barely won the day. LaBonge and Krekorian both repeated that voting for the 7.7 mile route eliminates any chance of the application not getting to the federal government in time to receive funding. LaBonge also compared transportation planning to a bicycle wheel in calling for better transit connections on Vermont Blvd. and Western Ave. Referring to centralized areas as “hubs” and the connections to them as “spokes,” the Councilman called on Metro to “hub and spoke it more,” which sent the LACBC Twitter feed into a giggling fit.